Falconer: Armod

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Falconer: Armod
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Falconer: Armod
Folk Metal, Power Metal
Metal Blade Records
June 7th, 2011
Release length: 49:44

Since forming back in 1999, Falconer has never failed their fans with each album they released. Well, that is if you don’t count Grime Vs. Grandeur which saw the departure of vocalist Mathias Blad. However, with his return, the band became as strong as it was before with two more full-length recordings carrying on the Falconer tradition. However, with the group’s seventh full-length studio recording, Armod, this Swedish group breaks from their own traditions and ushers in the first album to be lyrically composed in their native language, and takes on a bit of a more serious tone, though their material was never not that series to begin with.

And it could very well just be that it’s in a different language that much of the more series vibe to Armod derives from. The album’s music generally feels a little more deeper and not as fantastical, having a stronger, more serious Folk impression compared to previous recordings. And, for those that don’t speak the native tongue, the lack of comprehension to what the lyrics are saying can also paint this in a more serious Folk environment as well. While none of this is close to even being a bad thing, it does allow the group to change things up throughout the album, and at times it can be quite a dynamic change from the traditional Falconer sound, and in many ways that’s a welcome change. While songs like the starting track “Svarta Änkan” and “Dimmornas Drottning” usher in a wave of family territory for the band, being a rather lighter Folk-inspired Power Metal song that immediately gives the listener a sense of medieval times, wanting to start singing along with this group of minstrels, the music isn’t restrained to that primarily light and catchy sound.

“Griftefrid” becomes the first track to change things up on this recording, and it’s a track that will take the listener by surprise, though it really shouldn’t. This song starts off a little more intimidating, but in an epic manner. The faster paced material can sometimes give that Bathory or Amon Amarth epicness to the song without going over-the-top with it. This isn’t the first time the band has had a darker, faster sound to their music, but it’s the first time the music ever becomes as serious and heavy, as well as epic as this track is, and it immediately grips the listener with the potential the band has outside their own staple sound. Of course, this track is immediately followed by the slower paced ballad “O, Tysta Ensamhet”, which is just a beautiful Folk composition that takes great advantage of the soothing vocals common to Falconer albums, really taking that deeper minstrel quality to them and showcasing the passion that they can truly have before the song picks up from an acoustic piece into a slower, heavier track with electric equipment that portrays that passion in the music, but it feels a little lost in the vocals during this brief period in the track, which is a little disheartening, but perhaps due to the louder music masking some of the clean singing’s qualities that you can really pick up on against the lighter Folk music.

After this point, it becomes clear that the lighter Falconer tracks that started the release off pretty much become the only two on the album. With “Griftefrid”, the album becomes a lot more serious, and while not all of the band’s material has been lighter and the kind of music you can sing along with, many of these tracks have a notable difference that they try to be a little more epic in nature through a much more down-to-earth Folk approach, and it works very well. The heavier tracks do shine through a little stonger, such as outlined with “Griftefrid”, but it’s when all the elements of Falconer come together that the release truly becomes something a little more then traditional Falconer, which sadly seems to only stick with the track “Herr Peder Och Hans Syster”. This song has a rather crushing vibe to it, moving at a rather slow pace with the signature clean vocals and additional female vocals where appropriate. The band also incorporates a little fiddle work into the song, much like they did on “O, Tysta Ensamhet”, but not as much due to the heavier, more Metal derived sound, which is fine. This dark and gloomy track really paints the band in a different light and captures the listen for the over seven minutes of it’s life, standing out as one of the most prominant works by the band. There’s also “Fru Silfver”, another heavy track that really hammers away with heavy riffs, though not crushing and at times can feel a little lighter due to the catchier Folk leads, but the song still pounds away with a darker atmosphere similar to these songs.

Of course these types of songs aren’t the only ones to take notice of, as the more ballad-oriented tracks like “O, Tysta Ensamhet” and “Grimasch Om Morgonen” really show some passion from the band, especially in the vocals. All of this really manages to turn the atmosphere of the music towards a more depressive setting. “Eklundapolskan” is also worth taking notice, though it’s basically more in the middle of those two musical spectrums, taking more from the start of the album and having a more upbeat sound to it, though still a little more on the serious end of things. The whole album wraps up with “Gammal Fadopsalm”, which really spins the album into a very depressing state of mind. The track starts off with keyboards that sound like a church organ playing music you’d expect to hear a funeral. Eventually this ends with the rest of the instruments booming in with the same depressing, gloomy approach, though eventually shifting away from a general funeral approach to just a depressing Power Metal piece comprised mostly of a long guitar solo that is quite impressive and holds the listeners attention throughout the whole performance until it ends and the church organ kicks back up to close out the track. While this is a phenomenal and saddening instrumental piece, you can’t help but wish the track utilized some of the more passionate vocals that appeared on “O, Tysta Ensamhet” or “Grimasch Om Morgonen” to complete the mood being set, which would allow the band to expand this gloomy track a little longer in a proper manner without it actually becoming overkill.

Armod shows a different side of Falconer, and outside the first two tracks, it becomes a bit of a different beast. The attitude of the release is generally more serious, and at times becomes much darker and even depressing then what fans would be expecting. Sure the lyrics aren’t in English, but that doesn’t pose much of a problem since translators are available on the internet in abundance, and the general sound feels more like the band is exploring their potential in a manner that is best suited to them, and not solely because of a line-up change that specifically required it to happen. If you’re a fan of Falconer and it’s rather staple sound for the past six albums, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy this more more down to earth release from the group and the varying atmospheres it gives off, as it shows a far more impressive side that, while consistant to the sound, really raises the bar on what to expect from this powerful Swedish act.

01. Svarta Änkan – 6:56
02. Dimmornas Drottning – 4:17
03. Gritefrid – 4:20
04. O, Tysta Ensamhet – 4:08
05. Vid Rosornas Grav – 5:53
06. Grimborg – 3:32
07. Herr Peder Och Hans Syster – 7:18
08. Eklundapolskan – 2:56
09. Grimasch Om Morgonen – 2:30
10. Fru Silfver – 4:32
11. Gammal Fäbodpsalm – 3:22
Initial Pressing Score: 8.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Metal Blade Records.